Development on Sky Noon is continuing and we are moving into our Gold sprint. We have now confirmed that we will be showcasing Sky Noon at both Auckland Armageddon and PAX AUS and so this week we had a massive focus and getting the game playable at events. We used the NZGDA monthly Auckland meetup as our first offline playtest which was good for the team as it gave us a deadline to get things done.
Sky Noon Trailer
We have been long overdue for a new trailer since updating our art style so Logan was hard at work getting footage and cutting it with some new music that we got from our musician. The full trailer will be live when we push Sky Noon to Steam Greenlight next week.
We had played around with having set and forget mines in the scene but they became very hard to balance as they quickly became either useless or over powered every time we tweaked them. The mine has now become the booster which attaches to surfaces the same way the mine did but instead of exploding it pushes players in the direction it is facing much like a turbine. The booster lasts for 10 seconds after it is placed. The old booster has been renamed the dash.
We had originally played around with some basic animation on our HUD to better communicate movement in the game by making it bounce when the player jumps and lands. We wanted to make the HUD even more dynamic and animate on more game events and this week we got some more movement in for when the player picks up a crate. Some of the older HUD icons for abilities also got updated and we fixed a bug where the bullets would not alpha out correctly when depleted which was just a masking problem.
Third Person Animations
We had received a lot of feedback that the base third person stance wasn’t very natural as players held their guns out in front of them which wasn’t very Western. The base stance has been changed and a number of third person animations have been created in maya but not yet implemented in engine.
To get the maps ready for the trailer we needed to pretty them up a bit. We’ve got a bunch of new scene components including a new foliage brush for grass that is looking a lot nicer than the old one and of course we’ve got even more rocks!
With the NZGDA playtest coming up we knew we would need half decent controller support so that people could play standing up in front of a TV. This meant we needed to add some menu functionality so that it can be traversed properly with a controller. Now you can play the game in its entirety with a controller!
With all of the level progression that we had added which connects to online servers it was now impossible to play the game offline without it freezing while waiting to receive online stats. This week we have added a full offline mode which allows you to play on LAN with no internet connection. We used this at the NZGDA meetup and hard wired two PCs together to make a LAN between them. In offline mode all stat pulling and pushing is disabled.
From the Artists
Leading into our Gold phase I’m working more and more on adding final touches to the assets and features for Sky Noon. For the first few days I was tasked with touching up the HUD. This entailed creating new icons for our newest abilities and adding animations to the HUD to when the player picks up a crate. I also spent time going back and changing old assets and adding to them. I remodeled the windmill that Nathan created but with an intention to turn it into an intractable object. To that end I rigged the Windmill and are currently animating the sequences of idle, activation and activated. When they are completed the windmill will be activated by shooting the wheel causing the windmill to spin free. I also have been working on some business cards for the group. This was spurred on by people asking for our information when we presented at the Auckland game dev meetup. Finally I have been updating the Super shotgun particles. This particular effect is very tricky to get looking good. The original was a concept to test how well a cylinder could function as the basis for the particle. Getting feedback I have moved away from the cylinder and onto more complex meshes. I’m also experimenting with vertex animation textures a unique feature in Unreal engine. The new effect is already looking better that the last. I will definitely be posting a gif of the new particle sometime next week so stay tuned to the twitter!
My main job this week was to work on the video for Greenlight. While I waited for the final touches to be made to the maps and updates to the HUD before capturing footage I worked on some customization elements for the player character. At this stage I have made some hat variations and will continue with other elements next week after the video is done (Poncho!) these should be getting implemented in the next few weeks. I also went back and made some adjustments to the skybox to make it easier for the player to see when the are falling and fixed some artifacts. After this I could just focus on getting footage and cutting the video. When we got our hands on the new music from our musician we had some cool ideas for the beginning of the video based on the songs intro, to do this Nathan whipped up some extra animations for me to capture. Looking forward to everyone seeing it next week.
This week for me was initially about making sure that everything was ready for the meetup, and by everything I mean exactly one thing. The maps had to look better and ready for some strangers to play. This meant distributing my new foliage and redoing some vertex texture painting on the main land masses. In the future I am going to make a modular building set to make new maps with and enhance the current ones, which will likely replace most or all of the existing structures. I will talk about this more in the following weeks. For now though the maps look alright. Apart from that I am on redoing the third person animations with a new stance, with additional ones on top that I had missed previously. I have done animations starting from a base scene with the fundamentals setup, then splitting off that with individual scenes per related animation set. It’s not ideal but it was the quickest solution I had available to me at the time. They must be completed this week so that I can design new levels next week but that goal is starting to look improbable.
From the Programmers
The first half of this week was spent preparing for the NZGDA meetup, where we planned to demo Sky Noon publicly for the first time. Most of my efforts went into enabling controller support for the menus and the ability to change settings mid game with controllers. I managed to get workable controller menu navigation in before the meetup, and people were able to experience a mostly uninterrupted game loop.
I also changed the mines ability, transforming it into the new booster ability. Based on feedback from internal playtesting, it was concluded that the mines did not fit into our core vision for gameplay as they were slow, didn’t help mobility and didn’t help with saves. The new booster ability allows for the placing of boosters which act much like the boosters in the map, but last only 10 seconds. These worked well as they helped with mobility and are active immediately. They also fill a niche in the gameplay which is helping team mates with mobility.
Finally, I began work on control customisation. I created the stored data in the game instance and researched how Unreal saves and loads data in JSON files for persistence between sessions. While not fully complete, I learned a lot about storing persistent settings with the game instance, and should have full control customisation in on Monday.
This weeks focus was on the Wednesday NZGDA Meetup, as we were planning to show off Sky Noon publicly finally. There were a couple of things that needed getting done to make this possible, one of which was the Offline Mode which we also intended to have as a feature of the game. When the user isn’t connected to the internet, as the situation for us at events would be, the option needed to be given to players to continue to the game so long as they had Steam in Offline Mode, and be locked into LAN games and Single Player.
After I added that, we had some issues with two computers not being able to connect as we hadn’t used LAN in a while, and it had proven to not be functional. After getting through that, and showing at the NZGDA, the rest of the week was spent fixing bugs and making a start to Character Customisation, which you will see next week.
This week I was working with Craig on trying to get our offline LAN mode working and integrated into the UI. We ran into some annoying bugs which ended up being poorly written code on my part where strings were being concatenated incorrectly resulting in the host’s URL having a bunch of Japanese characters at the end of them. I spent the second half of the week working on getting our Greenlight page set up and creating a press kit for our website.